The Golden Hawks men’s extramural hockey team’s season is hitting full stride with the team heading to Seneca College on Friday and the University of Toronto Scarborough campus January 31.
After winning it all last season, claiming Laurier Brantford’s first Challenge Cup, results following their first tournament haven’t been the same. However, Captain Dave Howe likes what he’s seeing. “There’s a couple things we need to work on [power play, breaking out of our zone], but overall, the boys are getting together pretty well and the new guys meshed well, so I think the next tournament is going to be a bit more proving of what kind of team we are.”
“The boys know what’s on the line and we want to win.” – Dave Howe
Getting the new guys to mesh well and buy into that championship mentality is huge for Howe and the Golden Hawks, primarily because there has been lots of turnover on the team, with seven or eight new players on the squad. These rookies certainly have big shoes to fill with limited time to get lots of tournament experience, considering most of last year’s lineup had almost three years under their belt together.
Howe acknowledges the lack of experience the team now has after the departure of some key players from last year’s championship run, but a learning curve is expected and the team is taking it in stride.
“We’ve really sent a message – Mike Mazurek’s a big part of that,” Howe says. “We hate losing here. Coming off that one tournament we were a little bit in the dumps, but it’s not too big of a deal. The boys know what’s on the line and we want to win.” In order to win on Jan. 24, they’re going to win some hard-fought battles against George Brown, who Laurier lost to in a shootout in their previous tournament, and Trent, a fellow 2013 Challenge Cup participant.
“We want people to come into the rink knowing that they’re playing the best team.” – Dave Howe
The Golden Hawks have the opportunity to gain up a lot of ground in the standings with good results in the upcoming two tournaments over the next ten days. And although there won’t be a lot of time to re-group and prepare for the tournament on Jan. 31 from UTSC, Howe likes the fact that they’ll be able to step back onto the ice so soon. “I think it’s an advantage for us. Playing back-to-back weeks allows us to get more comfortable with each other and work on some plays.”
The Challenge Cup Tournament is changing its format slightly, with the expansion from eight participant teams to twelve (including the tournament host), playing for Ontario college hockey’s biggest prize. Even though Laurier will have to go through more teams to re-claim the Challenge Cup trophy, they will get to do it on home ice, as the Brantford campus will be hosting the event in March.
“Any pressure’s good at this point,” Howe says. “And being champions is a pretty good reputation to have … It’s definitely better to be on the top than the bottom. We want people to come into the rink knowing that they’re playing the best team.” Come March on the Brantford Civic Centre ice, it’ll be interesting to see whether or not they still are the best.